Home > Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1)(15)

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1)(15)
Author: Kevin Hearne

I started casting camouflage on every spot of blood I could find and then on the pile of bodies as well. Leif ran across the street to lay some vampire hoodoo on Mr. Semerdjian: “Look into my eyes. You didn’t see anything.” It was like an old Jedi mind trick.

I was fairly confident I had taken care of all visible evidence before the first patrol car rounded the corner. If they went snooping around the east side of my lawn, they would run into some major invisible evidence, but hopefully they would never have reason to do that. As they wailed down the street, I muttered a little something to magnify the scent of local plant life, which would hopefully mask the scent of so much spilled blood.

I sent Oberon to sit quietly on our front porch while Leif and I dealt with the authorities. He probably needed another bath anyway.

Three black-and-whites pulled up to my house, alerting all my other neighbors that the noise they had been ignoring was something to worry about after all. Six officers jumped out of the cars and pointed guns at us over their car doors.

“Freeze!” one of them shouted, even though we were standing perfectly still. Another one snarled, “Hands above your head!” and yet another said, “Drop the sword!”

Chapter 11

How can one freeze and put their hands above their head at the same time? Do they teach cops to shout contradictory instructions at suspects at the academy for some sinister purpose? If I obeyed one cop, did the other cop get to shoot me for resisting arrest? The only one who worried me was the guy who told me to drop my sword. It was camouflaged but still hanging in its scabbard across my back. Could he see through the camouflage?

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Leif said smoothly. Neither of us raised our hands. “I am an attorney for Mr. O’Sullivan here.” All the cops looked at him standing there serenely in his suit and got real quiet.

I am an attorney is a trigger phrase for cops. It tells them they have to go slow and follow procedures or their case will get tossed out of court. It meant that they wouldn’t be able to wave their guns around and bully me into anything. Unfortunately, it also told them that I needed an attorney at my house after normal business hours. If I were a mind reader, I would be hearing the same thing from each one of their heads: “This bastard is so guilty he already has his lawyer here.”

“What can we do for you tonight?” Leif asked pleasantly.

“We received a call that there was someone cutting down people with a sword here,” one of them said.

Leif snorted in amusement. “A sword? Well, I suppose that’s refreshing, perhaps even charmingly retro. But would there not be some signs of struggle if that were the case? People missing their arms, lots of blood, and maybe an actual sword in somebody’s hand? You can see for yourselves that nothing like that is going on here. All is well. I think you received a crank call, officers.”

“Then why are you here?” the cop asked.

“I’m sorry, Officer … um?”

“It’s Benton.”

“Officer Benton, I am Leif Helgarson. I am here because Mr. O’Sullivan is not only my client, he is my friend. We were simply standing here, enjoying the autumn evening and discussing baseball, when you drove up and pointed your weapons at us. Speaking of which, isn’t it about time you put those away? Neither of us is about to threaten you.”

“Let me see your hands first,” Officer Benton said.

Leif slowly took his hands out of his pockets and I did the same, raising them to shoulder height. “Look,” Leif said, wiggling his fingers like they were jazz hands. “No swords.”

Officer Benton scowled at him, but then he reluctantly put away his sidearm and the other officers followed his example. “I think we should take a look around, just to be thorough,” he said, stepping around his car door and walking toward us.

“You do not have probable cause to look around,” Leif told him as he lowered his hands and crossed his arms. I put mine in my pockets.

“The 911 call gave us probable cause,” Benton countered.

“A crank call that clearly has no basis in fact. The only disruption to the peace in this neighborhood tonight has been your sirens, and if you want to search my client’s property, you should go get a warrant.”

“What is your client trying to hide?” Benton asked.

“It is not a matter of hiding anything, Officer Benton,” Leif said. “It is a matter of protecting my client against unreasonable search and seizure. You have absolutely no reason to search these premises. Your call described a sword fight in progress, but nothing like that has gone on here, so I think your time would be better spent protecting the city from real threats instead of imaginary ones. In addition, if the caller was the elderly Lebanese gentleman across the street, he has a long history of harassing my client over imagined trespasses. We are considering a restraining order against him.”

Officer Benton looked supremely frustrated. He knew, he just knew, I was hiding something, and of course he was right. But he wasn’t used to dealing with lawyers—detectives usually handled them—and he wasn’t confident enough to proceed when he couldn’t see anything wrong. Apparently the officer who had told me to drop the sword couldn’t see it strapped to my back either, because he hadn’t said a word since he got out of the car. He must have been shouting at me based on the 911 call. All hearsay. But Benton couldn’t resist trying to bully me anyway.

“Haven’t you got anything to say, mister?” he sneered at me. “Why did we get called out here?”

“Well,” I said, “I cannot say for certain, of course, but it might be because Mr. Semerdjian across the street there really doesn’t like me. You see, about three years ago my dog escaped and pooped on his lawn. I apologized and cleaned it up, but he’s never forgiven me.”

"Hey, I heard that!" Oberon called from the porch. "You told me to poop on his lawn!"

Yeah, so what’s your point? I asked.

"You’re making it sound like I’m some ordinary dog who just poops anywhere."

I know, but it’s going to get that Semerdjian guy in trouble.

"Oh. Well, that’s okay, then. I don’t like him."

Officer Benton glowered at me for a moment, and then at Leif, but if he was expecting us to confess, he was going to be disappointed.

“Sorry for disturbing you,” he finally growled, and then thought to amend his tone. “Have a nice night.” He turned his back on us and stalked across the street to Mr. Semerdjian’s house, muttering to two of the officers that they could go, he’d write it up. They made good-bye noises at him and climbed back into their cars, turning off their lights and motoring away as Officer Benton pounded on Semerdjian’s door.

“Should we worry about him remembering anything?” I whispered to Leif.

“No, he is still completely in my thrall,” he replied in the same low tone. “How were you planning to get rid of the Fir Bolgs?”

“I actually hadn’t planned that far yet.”

“You know, for another glass of that fine vintage you have, I can take care of it. Just help me haul them over to Mitchell Park.”

I took time to consider. Burying the bodies of nine giants would not be easy, even if they were already in pieces. Calling on Radomila’s coven to take care of it was a possibility, but I really didn’t want to use up their favor on something like this.

“How would you take care of it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I know some ghouls. I make a couple calls, the guys come over for dinner, problem solved.”

“They can put away nine whole giants? There’s that many ghouls in town?”

“Probably not,” Leif admitted. “But whatever they do not eat tonight, they’ll take the rest to go.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “You mean like a doggie bag?”

The vampire nodded with a thin trace of a smile. “They have a refrigerated truck, Atticus. These are practical guys. I employ them often, and so does Magnusson on occasion. It is a satisfactory arrangement for everyone.”

“So I would owe you three glasses,” I said.

“That is correct. And I want them sooner rather than later, since you are apparently marked for death.”

“Hmm,” I said, to buy myself some time. Officer Benton was writing out a citation for a bewildered Mr. Semerdjian across the street. False calls to 911 are a no-no.

“Can I pay you one tonight for your firm, and the other two tomorrow night?” I asked.

“Why not simply give them all to me tonight?” Leif replied. “You heal rapidly.”

“Well, that’s what I’m doing right now,” I said. “I have some torn abdominal muscles, a deeply bruised left shoulder, and a couple of vertebrae are out of place.”

“Should you not be screaming in pain, then?” Leif regarded me skeptically.

“Yes, but I’ve blocked my pain receptors. And I’m going to need my strength if I want to be good as new by morning.”

“What are the odds of you surviving until morning?”

“I think they’re excellent. I was warned about the arrival of Bres and the Fir Bolgs, and both have now been dispatched.”

“Bres is dead? The former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann?” Manannan Mac Lir take me for a fool, I shouldn’t have told him that! It was too late to backpedal, though. If I lied he’d know it.

“Aye, he lost his head up the street moments before I arrived.”

“And you did it?”

“Guilty.”

“Then I want all three glasses tonight, Atticus, and to hell with your healing. Brighid is going to kill you, and this will be my last drink.”

I sighed heavily in defeat. I was not about to explain the details of my arrangement with the Morrigan to him. “We wait for Officer Benton to leave,” I said, “then you make your calls and we haul the bodies over to the park. Only after I’m in the clear and my front yard can pass inspection without camouflage will you get your rare vintage.”

“Agreed,” the vampire said. “I am full right now anyway. I need to work some of this off.” He dug a cell phone out of his—or, I should say, my—breast pocket and used a speed-dial number to call someone named Antoine. “I have dinner for the whole crew at Mitchell Park in Tempe right now. Bring the truck.… Yes, there is enough for everybody, trust me. See you there.”

Whoa. He had ghouls on speed dial. My lawyer kicks so much ass.

Chapter 12

Ugggh. Yuck. Gack.

I woke in my backyard, stiff from a night spent on the ground and itchy from the grass. Oberon was nestled around my legs, his head resting on my shin. I tried to gently extricate myself so he could continue sleeping if he wished.

The night outside had been necessary to speed my healing, especially after surrendering three wineglasses of blood for Leif. I had needed the contact with the ground and the power of the earth. Worth a bit of itching? Definitely.

I sat up and checked my abdomen: Some stiffness there, no real pain, and the skin had already scabbed over and fallen off, showing me a shiny new pink epidermis. The shoulder was good as new, and my back, while still a bit sore, at least felt like it was straight again. I grinned. After 2,100 years, I still thought magic was pretty damn cool.

Oberon picked up his head as I got to my feet, and he took that as his cue to stand and stretch.

"Morning, Atticus."

“Morning. You want a belly rub? Better take it while I’m offering.”

"Okay!" He promptly flopped down next to me, lifting his front paws to give me better access. I squatted down and rubbed him vigorously for a few minutes while his tail thumped happily against my leg.

“So what would you like for breakfast today?”

"Sausage."

“You always say that.”

"That’s because it’s always tasty."

“I’m out of sausage. How about some pork chops?”

"I don’t know. Did Genghis Khan eat pork chops?"

“Well, I doubt he ate chops, because that’s a fairly modern way to cut it. He probably ate slices off a whole ham or something that they had roasted in the ground all day.”

"Can I have some of that, then?"

“I don’t have a whole pig to roast, nor do I have the time to do it properly. Can’t you settle for some chops and just pretend?”

"All right. But after that can we conquer Siberia or something?"

“Not today, Oberon,” I chuckled. “I have a contract to fulfill with the witches. And someone is bound to come by and threaten me today, or try to kill me. And we have to make sure the widow is okay. We left her house rather abruptly last night.” I rose from my haunches and brushed the grass off my shorts. “Come on, let’s go inside and make breakfast.”

"All right, but I think we should start recruiting a horde now and have them muster on the Mongolian steppes. We can join them in the spring and then ride to glory."

“Where are we going to recruit a horde?” I asked him as we stepped inside. Fragarach was lying where I left it on the kitchen table.

"I don’t know. You’re the bloody Druid here, not me. But I think you should start with getting me a sufficient number of French poodles, and you can find those in the classified section of the newspaper. Hold on, I’ll go get it."

“No, no, don’t go out there,” I said. “You’re still in hiding, remember? I’ll go get it.” I wanted to see what could be seen in the daylight, anyway. I dissolved the camouflage bindings on my lawn to evaluate the signature of last night’s carnage. There were some messy patches of gore we had missed last night, especially on the eastern side, and I pulled out the garden hose to see how much of it I could spray away. Most of it obligingly melted into the soil under a jet stream, but some of the grass remained tinted an unhealthy shade of pink. That was a problem I couldn’t simply camouflage away, because the only thing around the pink grass was more pink grass. I’d have to come up with an excuse if anyone asked. Maybe that giant animated jar of Kool-Aid met his untimely end here?

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